Five charges facing Samsung's Lee Jae-Yong

PHOTO: AFP

Seoul - The heir to the Samsung business empire Lee Jae-Yong faces five charges in his corruption trial, after being caught up in the scandal that brought down President Park Geun-Hye.

Prosecutors demanded a 12-year jail sentence for Lee and up to 10 years for four other former top Samsung executives.

Bribery

Prosecutors argue Lee paid or promised to pay a total of 43.3 billion won ($38.4 million) in return for actions including government support for the scion's hereditary succession at the Samsung group.

The amounts include 21.3 billion won to sponsor the equestrian training overseas of the daughter of Park's long-time friend Choi Soon-Sil.

The other 22 billion won was in donations to foundations allegedly controlled by Choi.

Lee's lawyers say Samsung was browbeaten by Park to support the national equestrian team, which happened to include Choi's daughter Chung Yu-Ra, and to make the donations to support the country's cultural and sports development.

They say there is no material evidence to prove the money changed hands in return for policy favours, asserting the bribery charge is based on "groundless assumptions".

Maximum sentence: five years

Samsung heir arrested in S Korea corruption probe

  • Lee Jae-Yong, the heir to the Samsung business empire, denies all charges in connection with a wide-ranging corruption scandal, his lawyers told a preliminary hearing Thursday (Mar 9).
  • Lee, 48, was not present at Seoul Central District court for the hearing, which comes as his giant company struggles to recover from a recall scandal.
  • "Everyone denies all the charges," a defence lawyer told the court at the hearing, which lasted little more than an hour.
  • Lee was arrested on Feb 17 on bribery and other charges related to a political corruption scandal that triggered the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye.
  • Among other allegations, Lee is accused of paying nearly US$40 million (S$56.7 million) in bribes to a confidante of President Park's to secure policy favours.
  • One of the favours which Lee allegedly sought from Park was state approval for a controversial merger in 2015 of two Samsung units seen as a key step to ensure a smooth transfer of power to him.
  • Lee, the son of Samsung group boss Lee Kun-Hee, was quizzed several times before his arrest over his alleged role in the scandal that has rocked the nation.
  • The 48-year-old, described as a key suspect in the scandal, narrowly avoided being formally arrested in January, after the court ruled there was insufficient evidence.
  • On Feb 28, Lee and four other top Samsung executives were indicted Tuesday on multiple charges including bribery and embezzlement.
  • The scandal centres on Choi Soon-Sil, who is accused of using her close ties with Park to force local firms to "donate" nearly US$70 million to non-profit foundations, which Choi allegedly used for personal gain.
  • Samsung was the single biggest donor to the foundations.
  • It is also accused of separately giving millions of euros to Choi to bankroll her daughter's equestrian training in Germany.
  • Lee has effectively been at the helm of Samsung since his father suffered a heart attack in 2014.

Embezzlement, money laundering and transfers

Three of the other charges are linked to the bribery count.

Prosecutors argue that of the 43.3 billion won, 29.8 billion won was actually paid and this was company money diverted by Lee, amounting to embezzlement.

Maximum sentence: eight years Part of the money was allegedly laundered. Maximum sentence: five years.

Samsung wired 7.9 billion won to a paper company set up by Choi in Germany. Prosecutors say that constituted an illegal asset transfer overseas.

Maximum sentence: life

Perjury of parliament

At a parliamentary hearing in December, Lee told lawmakers said he had not been informed of Samsung's bankrolling of the daughter's equestrian training and that he was unaware of the Chois. Prosecutors say these statements constitute perjury.

Maximum sentence: 10 years